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Situated in central-western portion of the county, the city of Aitkin, Minnesota is the seat of government for Aitkin County. The community was founded as a stop along the Northern Pacific Railroad, which extended its track through the region around 1870. Both the city and county were named for William Alexander Aitken, a fur trader who did business with the Ojibwe, and a partner in the American Fur Company. Early settlers of the city and county came for a variety of reasons, including the fur trade, but also for its logging and riverboat industries. After the Great Depression and World War II, the area’s logging industries declined, and were largely taken up by agriculture, primarily the raising of cattle and poultry, which continued to be a significant factor in the city’s economy into the 1980s. Today, very few active farms remain, although several abandoned farms surround the city, and its economy has looked to tourism and its attraction as a retirement community, with health care, human services, and non-profits being its larger employers. The actress and singer, Judy Garland, performed at the opera house in Aitkin as a young child. The Mississippi River flows through the northern edge of the city, and the Ripple River and Sissabagamah Creek are nearby. US Highway 169 and Minnesota Highway 210 join together as they pass through the northern part of Aitkin, and Minnesota Route 47 enters the eastern part of town. Other roads serving the town include County Roads 1, 12, 15, 41, and 54. Nearby communities include Bennettville, Crosby, Cuyana, Deerwood, Glory, Hassman, Kimberly, Rossburg, and Wolford. St. Joseph, Minnesota is about ninety miles south, while Duluth is about eighty-five miles east of Aitkin.

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